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Best place for a picnic in Manhattan?

Trying to put together a picnic for my husband's birthday for about 20 people - where would the best place be - looking for a little shade, sun, not too crowded, easy to find, ideal if there were picnic tables near by but not a deal breaker if not.

And what would be good to serve? Any good takeout places that specialize in food that you don't need a fork and knife for?

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  1. Central Park is an obvious response, but I'll suggest it, anyway. If you head to the Rambles you'll find a lot of good, semi-secluded spots, just walking around. Many of the paths end up by the lake, where the view is very nice, indeed (tho it's rather less secluded, there). There are also a lot of little wooden 'huts' by the lake with seating, which might be an ideal place to picnic.

    As for picnic fare, I usually just stop by Zabars for some fresh bread, cheese, smoked fish / deli meat, dried fruit, olives, etc.... Most things come wrapped in paper for easy (environmentally friendly) disposal.

    1. I'd vote for a trip up to around 190th St. (near Fort Tryon Park) for a great view of the Hudson at The Cloisters. It was many years ago that I visited last but the sloping green and cool breeze on a sunny late May day made the perfect setting for enjoying a full gourmet basket on a blanket with friends.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chefpaulo

        That area is really lovely, too, as is Inwood Park across the street. The only downside is that it's not as well maintained, so you run a greater danger of sitting on glass shards from broken bottles.

        For picnic fare, try picking up empanadas from one of the ubiquitous Dominican bakeries in the area.

        1. re: cimui

          Chefpaulo has it right. Stay away from the obvious and head North.

        2. re: Chefpaulo

          A third (or is it fourth) for Fort Tryon Park. Done lots of picnics there--especially for out of towners. No picnic tables (at least, not that I recall) but great views, gorgeous landscaping, things to do (like visit the Cloisters) for people who want to wander off. Agree with cimui that Zabar's or Fairway are the major one-stop sources for bread, cheese, deli meats, etc. And one of my favorite picnic desserts--although you do need paper plates and a fork--is angel food cake, yogurt cheese, and sliced strawberries with whatever additions might appeal such as sugar and a hit of Framboise. Travels beautifully, mimics strawberry shortcake, and never fails to satisfy and impress. Oooh! Sounds like such fun. Time for me to do that again.

          1. re: JoanN

            Wow.. that dessert sounds fantastic. I assume you assemble it ahead of time, right? (No need for plates and forks if you eat it with your fingers!)

            1. re: cimui

              It is pretty fantastic. But, no, I don't assemble it ahead of time. I bring the cake (usually store bought) with the yogurt cheese and sliced strawberries with juice and whatever additions each in separate zip-lock or one-pint plastic containers and assemble servings on site. It keeps the cake from getting soggy. I guess you could eat it with your fingers, but I ususally pack paper plates and plastic utensils for a picnic anyway.

              1. re: JoanN

                Ah, that's a good idea. If you assemble it ahead of time, you'd get something like a trifle, I guess.

                I was just kidding about the eating with fingers part... I understand from observation that many civilized human beings use plates and utensils.

        3. this is easy. call circle line and get 20+ seats for the full manhattan tour. takes about three hours. the boat is a bit cheesy but grab space on the port side heading out and the views will be fantastic. next, pack your own food/beer/wine. i do this all the time so don't worry. east river, harlem river, battery, hudson river. statue of liberty, brooklyn bridge... you get the idea.

          1 Reply
          1. re: steve h.

            i usually assemble the picnic stuff at the markets inside grand central terminal. great salumi, cheeses, breads, etc. wine, too. be sure to ask for the plastic knives and forks.

          2. Hi folks--please keep your responses focused on where to find good picnic fare in the city. Great outdoor spots are off topic.

            1. If you're more in the market for prepared foods, Bruno Ravioli (multiple locations) has excellent sandwiches and cannoli, both of which travel well for picnics.

              1. Try St. Lukes Church, on Hudson street, in the west village. It has a peaceful yard in the back, with a lovely lawn & garden. The picnic food choices are infinite, with Hudson St. being one of the best foodie streets in the city.